Minority divided over pork barrel

Manila, Philippines -- Lawmakers are united on several issues, but one thing divides them--the pork barrel.

Minority lawmakers are divided over the proposed abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) with the seven-man Makabayan bloc refusing to forego their pork barrel allocation.

Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora said minority lawmakers have no common position over the abolition of the pork barrel system pushed by the Makabayan bloc but they are pushing for a probe on the pork barrel scam which involved members of both houses of Congress. He said they would file a resolution next week to pursue the House investigation on the PDAF scam.

"We want to get to the bottom of this," he told reporters.

When pressed if they are ready to give up their PDAF, Alliance of Concerned Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio said, "Kung ngayong di pa tinatanggal eh, di pa kami nakakatanggap."

The Makabayan bloc did not get a single cent from the PDAF during the Arroyo administration. But records showed they began receiving their pork allocation after President Benigno S. Aquino III assumed office in June 2010. "We are calling on our colleagues to take position on abolishing the PDAF and not just foregoing the funds," Tinio said.

Isabela Rep. Rodito Albano rushed in defense of Tinio, saying that the real issue is the "misuse" of PDAF and not the Makabayan bloc's grip on their allocation.

"Ang laban dito ay misuse ng pork barrel.Hindi naman sila ang nag-iimplement nito. Ma-iimplement ang PDAF sa ayaw at gusto nila. Hindi usapin dito kung tatanggapin nila o hindi," he said.

Zamora agreed with his colleagues, saying that "what we need is transparency in the system."

The P2.268-trillion national budget for 2014 proposed by the Aquino administration allocates P27 billion in PDAF for members of Congress.

The law provides that each House member can P70 million PDAF for pet projects or causes. Of the total figure, P35 million are intended for soft projects such as education and health assistance and P35 million is channeled to infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges and classrooms.

Meanwhile, Senator Miriam Santiago has filed a resolution seeking to phase out the PDAF to give members of the Senate and the House time to adjust to a time when they will no longer have pork barrel.

In filing Senate Resolution No. 133, Santiago said a proposal to abolish the pork barrel would be vehemently opposed by many members of Congress. "This is why the second best solution is to gradually phase out the PDAF. This will give senators and congressmen time to adjust to the new rules," she said.

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